5 Reasons to Start Swimming to Benefit Your Health

Going for a swim in the summer can keep you cool when out in the sun. It can also benefit your health in several ways. Here are 5 reasons to hit the pool this summer:

  1. It offers a full-body resistance workout. In order to swim effectively, your body must incorporate the use of the muscles in your hands all the way down to your feet. The water offers resistance against the body that will help to keep your muscles strong.
  2. It promotes cardiovascular and lung health. Swimming laps in the pool can improve your heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. It can also improve lung capacity and efficiency.
  3. It reduces stress on the body and joints. Water provides buoyancy that lessens the impact of your body weight when swimming, providing a lower impact form of exercise than land based exercises such as running.
  4. It can decrease pain. Water can have a soothing effect on aching muscles and joints. It also promotes increased joint range of motion and body movement that may be difficult to perform on land if you have chronic pain.
  5. It is good for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you are young or old, in shape or out of shape, swimming is a fun way to help you achieve your fitness goals and keep you healthy.

Written by: Dr. David Reymann

Cervicogenic Headache Vs. Migraine Headache

Cervicogenic Headaches stem from structures inside the neck and can radiate to the neck, back, front of the shoulders, scapula, down the arm, and chest.  Migraine headaches are a disorder of the central nervous system involving nerves and blood vessels. Migraine headaches are throbbing recurring headaches that are typically found on one side of your head.

Cervicogenic Headache

Symptoms:

These patients may report an increase in headache frequency and intensity, decreased ability to turn their head, increased pain with prolonged sitting postures, neck pain, muscle tightness and tenderness, arm and shoulder pain, weakness, dizziness, nausea and light headedness.

 Causes:

Joint stiffness in the neck, muscle and tissue tightness, multiple trigger points, or nerve irritation may lead to cervicogenic headaches.

Treatment:

Physical Therapy provides soft tissue massage, trigger point release, dry needling, stretching, modalities, joint mobilizations, strengthening postural muscles, and addressing proper body mechanics to decrease headache intensity and frequency.

Migraine Headache

Symptoms:

Migraines can have an aura or no aura.  An aura is a visual disturbance that informs you of a migraine onset.  Common auras are losing vision, seeing zig zags, light sensitivity, or flashing light colors.  A migraine headache causes increased pain and throbbing on one side of your head.

Causes: 

There are many causes to migraine headaches.  Some examples are loud noises, bright lights, food, weather changes, lack of sleep, menstruation, and smoking.

Treatment:

Determining the trigger for your migraine headache and working towards preventing it from happening.  Physical Therapy provides modalities, massage, stretching, and traction to help diminish symptoms and decrease frequency and severity.  Physical Therapy will teach you how to perform self massage and self traction to help diminish your symptoms.  In severe cases where migraines are daily or several times a week, medication is prescribed.

How to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather

As the hot summer months approach, it is important to be aware of hot weather safety while staying active outdoors. Listed below are some precautions you should take before exercising outdoors this summer.

 

Stay Hydrated – The increased summer temperatures will lead to increased fluid loss through sweating. It is important to drink water throughout the day and increase fluid intake when exercising to replenish the body’s supply.

Dress Appropriately – Wear light-weight, light colored clothing to reflect heat and aide in the evaporation of sweat. Avoid dark-colored clothing that absorbs light and heat.

Take Your Time – Initially, decrease the intensity of your workout to avoid overexertion. As your body adjusts to the heat with more frequent workouts, gradually increase the length and intensity of your exercise routine.

 Watch the Temperature and Time of Day – Exercise in the morning or evening, when the temperature is cooler. If there is a heat advisory or the temperature feels too hot to exercise comfortably, consider taking your workout routine indoors.

Know Your Medical History – Certain medical conditions or medications may place you at an increased risk for an adverse event when too much stress is placed on the body. Consult with your health care providers to ensure that you are performing the appropriate types of exercises under the right conditions.

Listen to Your Body – If any of the following symptoms occur while out in the heat, it is important to seek immediate medical attention: confusion, irritability, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, visual impairment, headaches, or muscle cramping.

Swimming Injuries and Prevention

Swimming is a form of exercises which is non-weight bearing, low impact, and causes low stress on joints.  Injuries associated with swimming are usually not caused by trauma or impact, and commonly stem from overuse and repetition.  Swimming injuries most commonly occur in the shoulder joints but can also affect the knees, hips and low back.  Overuse can lead to fatigue and improper stroke and kicking mechanics.  Listed below are some examples of common swimming injuries associated with swimming:

  • Shoulder injuries result from muscle fatigue with repetitive motions and weakness of the rotator muscles.
  • Knee injuries results from repetition from breast stroke kick and irritation of the ligaments and tendons which allow bending and straightening.
  • Back injuries are common with too much back extension while swimming on your stomach.

Injury Prevention techniques:

  • Use good form and technique.
  • Lessen repetition.
  • Cross training.
  • Core, hip, and rotator cuff strengthening.
  • Rest when experiencing fatigue, pain or soreness to allow the muscles time to recover.

How Do I Lift Something Heavy Without Hurting My Back?

A lot of people end up having back pain from lifting heavy objects.  Most likely if they thought before they lifted the object, they would avoid causing themselves back pain. Listed below are steps to follow when lifting a heavy object to avoid straining your lower back muscles:

  1. Square your body to the object so it is right in front of you.
  2. Make sure the object is close to your body.
  3. Place your legs shoulder distance apart.
  4. Hinge forward slightly at the waist
  5. Squat down making sure your center of gravity is towards your heels not your toes.
  6. Pick up the object.
  7. If you need to place the object in a certain location, make sure to move your feet not twist your back.

If you continue to have back pain while lifting objects from the floor, call Harbor Physical Therapy to have one of our doctorate level physical therapists evaluate you to determine the source of the issue.

 

 

Ideal Sleeping Position

Certain sleep positions can cause more stress and strain on your muscles, joints and ligaments than others.

 Ideal Sleeping positions:

  1. Lying on your back with a bent knee position supported by pillows.
  2. Lying on your side with your arms folded resting in front of your body and a pillow between your knees.

Not ideal Sleeping position:

  1. Lying on your stomach this causes increase neck strain and increase back strain due to the pillows under your head.

Listed below are common patient questions about sleeping:

How many pillows should I sleep with? 

Typically one pillow is best.  When lying on a pillow, you want your spine to be level.  You can gauge this by looking at your head position in comparison to your body.  You want your neck to be in line with your body position at a zero degree angle.

Where should I put my arms when I sleep? 

Ideally you want your arms in front of your body to avoid strain on your shoulder.  Never have your arms above your head.  This can compress the nerves that innervate your arm leading to numbness and or shoulder impingement.

If you continue to wake up in the morning with pain, it is most likely due to your sleeping habits.  Call Harbor Physical Therapy and make an appointment with one of our doctorate level physical therapists to learn how to decrease your pain by changing your sleeping position.

 

What is a Hamstring Strain?

A hamstring strain is a common injury that involves one or more of the 3 hamstring muscles in the back of your thigh. Hamstring strains usually occur during running, jumping and climbing. Hamstring strains are common among sprinters, hurdle jumpers and football players.

Hamstring Description-
The hamstring muscle group is made up of 3 muscles, the semitendinosus, semimembranosis and the biceps femoris muscles. These muscles are responsible for bending your knee and extending your hip.

Symptoms-
Symptoms include a sharp pain in the back of the leg, pain with bending over and stretching the hamstring muscles, and pain when contracting the hamstring muscle. Sometimes there may be bruising or swelling.

Treatment-
1. Rest, ice, compress and elevate for the first 48 hours.
2. Slowly begin gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
3. Make a physical therapy appointment.
4. Physical therapy will include modalities such as ultrasound, massage, dry needling, electrical stimulation, ice/heat to decrease of pain/swelling and promote healing.
5. Physical therapy will provide you an exercise program to improve the flexibility in your muscles and improve your strength to return you to your daily activities.

How to Improve your Sitting Posture

As we sit throughout our day looking at a computer screen, we slowly start to develop a forward head posture and rounded shoulders.  There are many postural exercises that we can perform throughout our day to help prevent this “slumped” posture. Check out this video by Dr. Amanda at Harbor Physical Therapy to learn how to perform a scapular retraction exercise to help improve your sitting posture.

 

 

Ankle Sprain Treatment and Prevention

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn, and most commonly occurs on the outside of the ankle. This occurs when the foot rolls inward, placing excessive stress on the ligaments and can occur during a fall, landing awkwardly after jumping, or running or walking on an uneven surface.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Painful to touch ankle
  • Painful to move ankle

Treatment

  • Within the first 48-72 hours, it is important to utilize the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to minimize inflammation, pain, and swelling.
  • Range of motion exercises in all directions and stretching of the calf muscle will help to minimize loss of mobility and stiffness in the ankle joint.
  • Ankle strengthening exercises will increase the stability of the ankle to allow full return to all activities with decreased risk of re-injury.
  • Proprioception allows you to sense where your body parts are in space and in relation to the rest of your body. This is accomplished through sensory receptors called proprioceptors located in the muscles, tendons, and joints. Using proprioceptive and balance exercises helps to train this sense, thereby increasing ankle stability. These exercises are an important component to any ankle sprain treatment program.

A physical therapist will devise the most appropriate treatment and exercise plan for your specific injury, progressing you to a point where you are able to return to all functional and sport-related activities. If you suspect an ankle sprain, the physical therapists at Harbor Physical Therapy can evaluate you to determine the degree of injury.  Based on the severity, we may refer you to a medical doctor if a more serious injury such as a fracture or complete ligament or muscle tear is suspected.

Common Gym Injuries

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Common injuries that occur at the gym:

  • Muscle Strain
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis

Common injury areas that occur at the gym:

  • Back
  • Shoulders

Muscle strain is the most common injury. There are different degrees of muscle strains from a minor overstretching injury to a muscle tear. To avoid muscle strains, make sure you perform a warm up and a cool down.  It is important to listen to your body.  If something hurts, stop and stretch.

Tendinitis is caused by a repetitive strain to the tendon of the muscle. If you overwork a muscle, you can develop tendonitis.

Bursitis is inflammation to the bursa.  A Bursa is a fluid filled sac that provides decrease friction and helps to give a fluid movement to the joint. Avoid doing the same exercises all the time; change it up to avoid overuse of one particular area.

Back pain is one of the most common areas injured at the gym because the back is at the center of the body for all movement and exercise. To avoid injury, bend with your knees and tighten your abdominal muscles during exercises.

Shoulder impingement injuries occur due to lack of rotator cuff strength and or overuse of the rotator cuff muscles. To avoid injury, limit overhead weighted exercises and make sure to work on shoulder stability before increases the weight with strengthening exercises.

Harbor Physical Therapy can evaluate your gym injury and determine the most optimal course of treatment to get you back to the gym as quick as possible.  Our physical therapists will review your gym routine, educate you on proper body mechanics, and exercise routine to reach your fitness goals without injury.